Wednesday, 22 October 2014

What's in a Name?

As an exercise  in my creative writing class recently our tutor gave us two names and asked us  to write a short piece  about "Si and Margaret"attempting  to outline  their characters. As you would expect with several different personalities in the group everyone  had a different take on who Si and Margaret were. It got me thinking about names, and naming  things in general.
A name is a very important thing  for most of us, the moniker we have been saddled with will tell people about us before we even meet. A Vivienne, or a Lilith will conjure up a different picture in your  mind  than say a Susan or an Edith.

I always hated my name "Tracey Smyth"- two of the most common names ever put together, like John Green or Alan Jones. As I have got older and now  know no other Traceys I don't mind it so much. There was a time in my  teens when I  adopted my middle name Elizabeth, and my mother's maiden name of Harrison. I wasn't pretentious at all of course so a little double-barreling wasn't out of the question. I would sign my letters to my parents from school "Beth Harrison-Smyth", my parents  to their credit either didn't notice or realised I would soon get over it.

Double-barrelled surnames used to be the choice of the nobility. Those women who married down who wished their higher social status to be maintained while also raising the status of their new husbands would become double barrelled rather than adopt a name they saw as of lower status. Some names work well together, think Palmer-Tompkinson, or Lane -Fox. In recent times though every Big Brother wannabe and promotions girl is an O'Hare-McKechnie or Robertson-Watson, ghastly ugly mouthfuls. My own ( probably outdated) opinion is, if you want  to get hitched, adopt one or other name and stick with it.

New double barreled Aisleyne Horgan-Wallce
Old double barreled Martha Lane Fox OBE

Now I am in danger of sounding like a Daily Mail reader, but double barrels, if not centuries old make my flesh creep. Made up christian names however, send me to the fair. I'm all for celebrities calling their children Apple, Sage or Memphis if it floats their boat. After all if you are the child of a prominent actor or rock star you are expected to stand out from the crowd, and at least these are names, not of children , but of  something. You could decide to go all Shakespeare on us  and make up your own ; like Kelby or Shanice or anything with a hyphenated Lee on the end ( Sammi, Bobbi etc) or, you use a real name but spell it creatively Daryn. Lynzi, Traycee but  those, especially if combined with a naff double barrel will not show off your uniqueness, or coolness, or upward mobility, sadly  they will just make you stand out as a pretentious wannabe.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Professional Parenting

Parenting is  tough. Anyone  who has a child will know  that. You're damned  if  you do, and damned if you don't. A good  friend  of  mine  recently attended a positive parenting course at her church. We have been chatting about  it over  the last few weeks  and it  sounds as if  they have  given  the parents  some great information, as well as some food  for  thought.

Children  are like sponges, that's   why they learn so quickly. They can pick up their  own , plus  foreign languages, vocabulary colours, shapes, numbers,  letters, weather, feelings, all well before  they are  ready for school. What we always  forget  as parents is they are picking up all the subtle signals  we are sending  them. They can read our  mood through our body language and  facial expressions. Some  studies  say we communicate 55% of  our  views, mood  and feelings  non-verbally. Children are emotionally sensitive so it makes  sense  they can read  these signals better  than many adults.

If  you  think about  this logically it  makes  sense  that if we are tense, angry or upset  that our children may well feel unsure or upset. Even if we smile  and  try to reassure  them verbally they may not accept  this as true. 

Being an example of a happy , healthy caring person is  to me , the best way to develop happy, healthy caring children. We cannot expect our children to develop tolerance if we are intolerant, to be caring if we are brusque and uncaring, to be friendly if we are pathologically shy or anti-social. We may well be mortified if our  child is  the one who swears or bites at nursery, but if mummy swears at another driver on the school run , or daddy slams  doors and mutters obscenities under his  breath when he is annoyed about  something  what do you expect? Do as I say, not as I do does not work. Our children are too intelligent  for  that.

I have overheard  parents tell their children not to be so F***ing cheeky, or to shut up, and  then  the very same parents  seeing red  when these words and phrases are  repeated back to  them.

I had  my own parenting thrown back in  my face  this week by my 4 year old. We were in  the car turning left into a road  and  there was a van parked very close  to  the corner making visibility almost impossible. I loudly called  the van stupid and may well have uttered  a few expletives also. Nancy piped up, and carried  on till we were home, "It's  not nice  to call anyone stupid mummy". I tried  to reason with her and say I was talking about the van, and  not a real person , so it was OK. She was having none of it. A few hours later I was going out of  the house, Nancy asked me where I was going, and when I said I was just popping out for something she said , complete with wagging finger " and you need to go and say you are sorry  to that van!"

Friday, 3 October 2014

To Moan or Not to Moan

I am a complainer. I don't  think of  myself as a whinger, my DOH may disagree with that, but  I do believe in complaining. There are so many businesses, services  and products  out  there that  get  things  wrong  and go out of business because  no one complains. Complaining saves jobs! How  many times  have  you been to a new cafe and experienced cold coffee, the  wrong order or poor service  and instead of speaking  up, we don't want  to make a fuss, we just go elsewhere. This happens over and over and before  they know  it  the business is struggling  to stay afloat but  no one  has ever said  anything negative.

I complain about  dirty loos,lack of information and signage, goods sold that are unfit for purpose  and most commonly plain old bad service. I have  to say  that most companies appreciate  my comments and often I have had my complaint resolved and also received a voucher or some other compensation. This for  me is a bonus, and  not the reason I complain (honest).

There are some unscrupulous companies who will take advantage of people  who do not know  their rights. DD1 bought a play-suit from online fashion retailer BOO HOO, when it came it was totally misshapen  and wouldn't have fitted anyone  with 4 limbs and a head, she  returned  it  to them- at her own expense and was informed  she  was liable for a "restocking fee" which was around 25% of  the value. Well, Lily had spent her own money on  this piece of garbage and I went  into protective mummy mode. I emailed  their complaints department. the response I got was unsatisfactory, so on  the advice of  my excellent niece  Carina I took my complaint  to Facebook. interestingly  they acted immediately and refunded Lily's money in full. Unfortunately  for them I felt  they were a bit unapologetic and their clothing is not of sufficient quality so we won't choose  to shop with  them again.

This  is me, all serene  and lovely giving positive feedback- and never ever using bad words or abuse . :-)

I ordered a "click and collect" item from toy behemoth Smyths Toys this week . All went smoothly until I went  into  the store to collect the item. The email I had  from Smyths  clearly stated that if  the price of  my item had changed since I ordered it  they would automatically charge  the lower price. Imagine  my delight  when I noticed  the doll on  the shelf was £7 less than  it had been online.

I gave an assistant my code and he went  off to get my doll. As he approached me I noticed  he was removing  the price sticker  from  the box. I asked him how much I was going  to be charged, he stated  the higher price. When I explained  what my email had  said , he told  me that as I had bought  the item online I was to pay  the online  price. I showed him my email. Then he said  that those items had been priced wrongly and  that I still had to pay the higher price. I tried to debate  this with him , but he was hostile and uninterested. So I explained  to him I was unhappy with  this and would be in touch with  the click and collect service directly. 

I walked back across the store to take a photo of  the dolls with  the cheaper  price tickets on  them, he followed me and started peeling all the labels off as I was trying  to get a photo.

Those are his  fingers in  the top left!! 

When I got  home I emailed Smyths straight away and explained what had happened. they emailed within 24 hours  and I had a call from  the very apologetic and pleasant manager of  the store last night. She was not  happy  with her staff member, and is sending out  a gift voucher to me.

Now, what's  not  to like about  that scenario? I am happy  that I have been taken seriously, that I am right  and  that  the company recognises it is at fault and is taking steps to fix things.

Now in-case  you think  that I am just a perpetual moaner, I do also take time  to contact companies  with positive feedback when it is warranted. I have emailed Transport monopoly holders Translink this week with effusive and glowing praise for one  of  the conductors on the Dublin-Belfast train last Saturday. Needless to say I haven't heard from them- I feel a Facebook challenge coming !